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  Contempra Telephones

by Northern Electric / Northern Telecom

Contempra  Talia, leather 
American Club
              - Woodgrain  Contempra
              Speakerphone  Contempra with Broadcast Coupler  Contemprette

MODELS ON THIS PAGE:         Contempra    Talia    2Line    Message_Waiting    Speakerphone 
Broadcast Coupler     Contemprette                   
   Western Electric Design Line    TeleConcepts    TeleQuest    Lamps


During the 1970s phone subscribers were permitted to own decorative housings for their phones for the first time.
Contempra sets, introduced in 1969, were Northern Electric's line of "modern" decorative phones.
They formed the nucleus of the later "Imagination" line that was sold beginning in 1977.

Northern Electric was renamed Northern Telecom in 1976.

The Contempra and Imagination lines were distributed in the US through NE/NT's country headquarters in Nashville, TN and using distributors, such as TeleConcepts, North Supply and Centel.

This page contains photos and info from NT and distributor catalogs
with a few additions from my collection and photos from site visitors.
It is presented as a reference to help identify some of the models sold in the 1970s and early 80s.

You can click on the following link to open a list of NT Color Codes in a separate window to use as a reference while viewing color references on this page.  The window may be manually resized and positioned on the desktop to be visible with this window.
Open Color Code List in new window for reference.

If you prefer to stay in one window, the list may be viewed by clicking on links like this
Color codes: which will jump to a copy of the list on this page.  You may then return to the chart by using your browser "back" or back arrow functions.

The color palette changed frequently.  Any single list is unlikely to show all colors produced.
Colors shown are added from multiple lists found to date.  More will likely be found in the future.
Please report any other colors found in documentation or on sets in your collection.

Early sets were hardwired.  Later sets had modular connectors on handset and line cords.
The "A" model number suffix in the table below was changed to "F" after adoption of the eTechnology electronic dial in 1980.
eDigitone 2500 and eDigipulse 3500 sets were added to all tone styles in 1981.

Sources include:
Northern Electric T9 Catalog, 9/71 (Early Contempra)
TeleConcepts catalog "Today's Phones Today" effective January 5, 1979
NT Product Handbook, 6/81
North Supply Catalog , Fall 1982
Centel Catalog dated 1/83
NT loose-leaf catalog effective January 1, 1985 (Most sets in retired section.)
Info on found sets and from site visitors.

Please send additions and corrections.


Contempra, blue


Contempra, Offhook
Contempra   (Introduced in 1969)

Rotary (Model 100A) or tone dial (2100A).
No dial (100C)

Northern's version of the dial-in-handset phone (e.g. Western Electric's Trimline).  The Contempra preceeded the Imagination series by many years, but was marketed as part of the series.

Mechanical bell ringer.
Desk or wall mounted.

Color codes 1972:  -20, -21, -22, -23, -24, -25, -50, -51, -60.
Color codes 1981:  -14, -20, -23, -24, -25, -26- ,29, -31, -50, -60, -67, -68.
Color codes 1982:  -14, -20, -24, -26, -31, -60, -67, -68.
Color codes 1985:  -20, -26, -67, -82.

Other colors found:  -03, -84, -90

Open Color Code List in new window for reference.

Technical details in 502-321-910 CA. (May be found in the TCI Library:
Talia, leather
Contempra Talia (USA)

Rotary (Model 100A) or tone dial (2100A).

The Contempra covered in handcrafted stitched leather in Italy.

Available in dark brown, light brown and green leather.

Color codes: -46, -47, green leather.

Open Color Code List in new window for reference.
Contempra 2-line - Switch Detail
Contempra 2-line rotary (110A) or tone dial (2110A).

Small switches for line selection (slide) and signalling (push).

Color codes: see Contempra
                Message Waiting - Hotel/Motel

                Message Waiting - Hotel/Motel - Lamp
Contempra Message Waiting (Hotel/Motel)

Rotary (Model 100BX) or tone dial (2100BX).

The Contempra with a message waiting light.

Color codes: see Contempra

Technical details in 502-321-911CA
Contempra -
Contempra Speakerphone with ON/OFF switch and control.

Slits for speaker in housing side near the ringer gongs. Used the handset's transmitter for voice pick-up. The handset could be moved around on the desk as needed to improve voice quality.

This found set was mounted on a modular adapter for wall use.

John Tyson, designer of the Contempra, identified this variation as a prototype speakerphone that never went into production.

View internal photos and follow the discussion here:
Contempra with Broadcast Coupler
Contempra with Broadcast Coupler

Marked in ink on bottom: COUPLER BDCST-PORT
and inside: TCS-1152B1L,2A, ROTARY  -81

To make room for the metal box containing the coupler circuitry, the Contempra's standard D1QA ringer was replaced with a smaller M-type ringer.

Connection to the broadcast source was via either a two-conductor 1/4" phone jack or two pin-tip jacks on the phone's right side.

A DPDT switch selects either phone or broadcast function.

  Click for details.
Contemprette, White

Contemprette, Yellow

Tone dial (Model 3100C), Digipulse dial (9293).

Contempra-style handset on a narrower base with electronic ringer.

Color codes: -20, -26, -31, -60, -67, -68.

Open Color Code List in new window for reference.


These 2-digit codes appear as a suffix on the ordering code.
Published in the 1970s and early 80s (source list above).
-03 black
-09 cafe-au-lait (Diplomat)
-14 cafe-au-lait
-20 warm white
-21 deep turquoise (MD73)
-22 mauve (MD73)
-23 bright red
-24 pale yellow
-25 deep blue
-26 cocoa brown
-29 orange
-31 harvest gold
-35 chameleon gray

-46 dark brown leather
-47 light brown leather
-50 ivory
-51 green
-52 Oxford gray
-53 red
-56 yellow
-58 white
-59 rose pink
-60 beige
-61 light gray
-62 aqua blue
-64 turquoise
-67 almond
-68 sienna (orange)
-82 pastel blue
-84 burgundy
-90 biscuit
-   green leather


The American Club Ltd. provided upscale versions of the Contempra sets made in Nashville, TN for the American market.

Handsets were covered with leather and housings and handset faces were painted in patterns to simulate wood or marble.

Sets were finished with engraved brass "Limited Edition" plaques on the bottom and packaged in fancy boxes.

The paint typically shows wear on the handset and cradle from use, often revealing the color of the plastic underneath.

White Set
                  in box     American Club Label

                  Club label and Brass Plaque

American Club,
                White (1)    American Club,
                White (2)
American Club, Ltd.

White and Ivory Marble
American Club
                Set, Green (1)   American Club
                Set, Green (2)
American Club, Ltd.

Green Marble
American Club,
                Brown Marble   American Club,
                Brown marble, offhook
American Club, Ltd.

Brown Marble
American Club,
                Brown Wood (1)   American Club,
                Brown Wood (2)
American Club, Ltd.

Brown Wood
    - Light Burlwood
    - African Burlwood
    - Oak

Please send comments or photos of your favorite phones to: 

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